NATTIE, aka NATASHA, goes to work in a detective agancy

The following modified excerpt from “Why Natasha?” tells the back story of how Nattie came to work in a detective agency in the first place:

Nattie was a sophomore at Freedom University in Kingsport, Tennessee when she had to declare her major. Her mother, or more accurately her step-father, disapproved of the psychology major Nattie had decided on, and they withdrew financial support. Rather than beg or choose a more palatable major for them, Nattie decided to leave school. It was June, her roommate, who came up with a solution.  She encouraged Nattie to apply for an RA job in a women’s dormitory. Nattie had not expected to get the job, but she did and it meant she could return to school the next fall.

Although it was a good plan, it went off course during exam week at the end of the year. Nattie had gone out to Taco Bell with her brother, Kevin, who was still in high school at the time. In plain sight on the floor of the back seat of his Civic, she found a bottle of Coors beer. He was under-aged at the time and could have lost his drivers license if a policeman had just looked through the window while writing him a parking ticket. So, of course, Nattie took the beer and put it in her back-pack. It would be safer out of sight in her back-pack than in the back seat of his car. She could just throw it away when she passed a garbage can.

But Nattie did not throw Kevin’s beer away. She forgot. And when she came back to her dorm room with her back-pack, she unwittingly violated school policy. It was an innocent mistake and would have easily been rectified if June had not found it first. June had grown up in a family that never drank; it was not considered a sin or a weakness, it was just not considered at all. She never gave alcohol much consideration either, but soon June would be on a mission staff that required abstinence. She was simply curious, so June opened the Coors and after taking a healthy drink of the warm beer she promptly spit it out into a plastic waste basket by her desk. She dropped the nearly full bottle of beer in as well. Her curiosity was satisfied.

Had June been more experienced with alcohol she would have known better. She had no idea how rapidly the room would begin to reek of beer. Soon the smell was in the hall and shortly thereafter attracted the attention of the dorm staff. The RA called the resident director, who came to their room. Nattie returned from studying in the library right before the RD arrived.  She had just enough time to make a quick assessment of what was happening.

“I am the one who brought the beer to the room,” confessed Nattie. “It is my fault.”

“But I am the one who opened it,” argued June.

“Who drank it?” asked the RD.

The question struck Nattie as strange. “No one drank it,” she explained. “Look at it. It is all still there in the trash can.”

The RD left with the evidence after she made appointments with each of the roommates for the next day. As soon as they were alone Nattie convinced June to “let me take the heat on this. You leave forUgandain less than a week. You cannot afford to get bogged down with this.”

“But it is not your fault,” pleaded June. “I can’t believe how stupid I am.”

“I’m going to say it was mine, that I left it open and you spilled it. That’s ninety-nine percent the truth.”

“And then what?”

Nattie shrugged, “They’ll make me go to the honor council and then make me do a few hours of community service. It won’t be worse than that I promise. I can do it easily because I’m here. If you had to do it, it would mess up the timing of everything you have been working for. Please, June, let me take care of this. It’s not a big deal at all.”

June finally agreed and assumed that everything had gone exactly as Nattie had described because after Nattie met with the RD, June received a call telling her that her appointment had been cancelled. June’s loyalty to and admiration for Nattie was fixed.

A week later, June was inUganda, serving a four-year tour of duty with a medical mission group. She wrote Nattie regularly and even flew back to be in her wedding. June never knew what really happened in that meeting with the RD because Nattie never told her.

The RD had lectured Nattie about being a moral and ethical example for her classmates, questioning her commitment and her faith and her values. All of which surprised Nattie, but she listened quietly. After all, she was guilty of bringing the beer on campus. The rebuke did, however, feel very much like one of her step-father’s browbeating sessions. The greater surprise came when she was told that she was no longer fit to be an RA.

Nattie never told anyone what had happened in that interview. The loss of the RA job reactivated the decision to leave school and forced a job search.  She made five phone calls to employers listing “Help Wanted” ads and took the first offer she got.  A week later she became the receptionist at the Hiram Moreland Detective Agency in Bristol,TN.

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